Loudoun County is one step closer to being fully prepared for the Metro Silver Line extension opening.
Come 2020, the metro system, which serves a million people a day, will be connected to Loudoun. Loudoun County Combined Fire and Rescue System Chief stressed the importance of first responder’s understanding of metrorail technology and infrastructure. The Fire and Rescue Combined System has added a Metrorail Training Simulator to its training academy in Leesburg. County and Metro officials celebrated its opening at a ceremony June 28.
Metro delivered the two decommissioned 4000 series railcars to the academy in April after the county built the 95-foot replica rail line with the standard two-track design and high voltage third rail. It took five years to finish the project and make it as realistic as possible, Fire and Rescue Planner Maria Figueroa Taylor said.
Fire and Rescue, the Loudoun County Department of Transportation and Capital Infrastructure worked together to design the simulator and training program and negotiate the donation of the cars by the Washington Metro Area Transport Authority (WMATA).
“If I’m a parent and I want to get on metro, I have to know that in the unlikely event something happens that somebody will be there to take care of me and take care of my family when I’m probably the most scared I have ever been in my whole life, and that’s what we’re doing here today,” Loudoun Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) said. “We are having fire and rescue from all over the metro corridor, not just from Loudoun, but from all over the metro corridor come to be trained on efficient and effective rescue techniques.”
The simulator includes a flashover or fire simulator, confined spaces simulator, propane car, pavilion, pond access road and concrete/gravel pads for training exercises. It will allow Fire and Rescue personnel to train for various scenarios like a rail fire, medical emergencies, mass shootings and terrorist attacks. Personnel will be able to learn all the components of the railcars and how to safely get in and out in an emergency.
Prior to the simulator’s completion, Fire and Rescue trained at facilities in Landover and Greenbelt, Maryland. However, not everyone could be trained since it was a long commute and staff always has to be on hand at stations. The simulator will make the training accessible to the entire Fire and Rescue System, as well as systems in surrounding jurisdictions and other law enforcement.
“It’s all about training, training, training,” WMATA General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld said. “We hope that we never use it, but we want to be prepared in case we have to.”
Figueroa Taylor said the simulator will also be open to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement who train explosive-detecting dogs and for multi-agency shooter drills. The program will consist of a computer-based and in-person academy classes with hands-on components.
Fire and Rescue personnel will undergo training at Metro’s facility in Landover to become qualified to train other Loudoun first responders for Metrorail emergency response.
“Once we get everyone through the main program, they’ll be ready for any scenario and any kind of possibility. You always have to train for that one time,” Figueroa Taylor said. “And it will make the public feel safe. They’ll understand that we’ve been training and we’ll be prepared.”